At the mention of the name Mary Magdelene our minds wander more to her past than to her future. In this International Women’s Week we meet a woman of unlikely courage who ignores the insults and conventions to take her place in the unfolding story of God. This time it is Judas who speaks for the disciples.
The tenderness of this broken woman, whose shame others would want to play on, could care less. She reveals she knew more of the passion that Jesus was experiencing than did the blokes around Him. It was her cherishing of Jesus in a bright and fragrant moment that is so starkly contrasted with the economic rationalism and violent treachery of the world of zealous preoccupied men.
Then, there are our varied reactions to the extravagance and unconventional intimacy of Mary toward Jesus. After all, we know what kind of woman she was. “Mary, this is just too much, a bit over the top.”
She should have at least shown some restraint. The disciples had a lot to say. Mary just washed his feet.
We know that we will see Jesus repeat this act of love and hospitality with his disciples, at another supper just down the road in that upper room in Jerusalem. This time, it was Jesus who was over the top. Surely he could have shown some restraint too. Here Jesus shows the full meaning of perfect love casting out all fear, and does so by offering a security that all the carefulness in the world cannot match.
Was Mary really wasting this perfume ?. Maybe she saw a future beyond that was no waste at all. Should we want to interpret this as Mary anointing Jesus for his burial, ?. What if Mary is even more profound than that? She is in fact anointing him for his resurrection. Mary teaches us here that the hopefulness of extravagant commitment is a contradiction to the assumption that death is hopeless.
This is the faith to which we are called. Anointing is for life, not death!
Mary got it. Let us anoint our faith and not embalm it.